Bulgari Collection Tour

In late April, 2012, members of MBCA-NEPA had the privilege of touring a private collection of 90+ cars owned by jewelry scion Nicola Bulgari.

Nicola Bulgari’s passion for American cars is deep and eclectic. The monetary worth of a car plays no role in what he chooses to collect or restore. Each vehicle is significant in its own way. If Nicola Bulgari decides to restore a car, the end value is not part of the overall equation. This means a Nash sedan will receive the same attention as a custom-bodied Packard. This approach to collecting and restoration is appreciated by those who value America’s rich automotive heritage.

Some of the vehicles in this exhibition are in their original condition, others are completely restored. The connecting thread is that all the cars are fully-functional and driven frequently. Each car is equipped with a trickle charger and is exquisitely maintained so that he can drive any of the cars whenever the whim hits him.

Curator (and restorer) Keith Flickinger (shown at right, above) is a story teller of great skill. He provided MBCA-NEPA members with anecdotes and facts on each of the cars as we made our way through just two of the buildings that house Mr. Bulgari's American collection. There wasn't a Mercedes in this particular collection, but the range of cars we saw would melt the heart of any true car buff.

A big thanks from the club to Christina Gaeta and Keith Flickinger of the Bulgari Collection and MBCA-NEPA Vice President Mike Ziegler for making this event possible.

1939 Plymouth Convertible

In honor of the brief period when Daimler was known as "Daimler-Chrysler", we begin with some classic "Mopar" cars:

The original owner of this Plymouth replaced the rectangular headlights with then-new round sealed beam lamps. The original housings and lamps were wrapped in newspaper and stored them in the trunk. When Mr. Bulgari bought and restored the car, the original headlamps were re-installed.

1936 Chrysler Airflow

The Chrysler Airflow was produced by the Chrysler Corporation from 1934 to 1937. The Airflow was the first full-size American production car to use streamlining as a basis for building a sleeker automobile, one less susceptible to air resistance. Chrysler made the first effort at a fundamental change in automotive design with the Chrysler Airflow, but it was ultimately a commercial failure.

1935 Hupmobile

Robert Hupp, a former employee of Oldsmobile and Ford, and his brother Louis Hupp founded the Hupp Motor Car Co. in Detroit, Michigan. Hupmobile did very well into the 1920’s. After the stock market crash of 1929, sales plummeted. There was not enough cash to make any significant changes for 1933, but the bold designs for the 1934 Hupmobile (shown at left) received public attention and approval. It had an aerodynamic body, faired-in headlamps and a three-piece "pilot house" windshield with its end sections slightly bent around the corners. In 1937 Hupmobile suspended manufacturing, finally going out of business in 1939.

Dodge Powerwagon

The Dodge Power Wagon was a four wheel drive light truck produced from 1945 through 1980. This early version was based on a military truck, the Dodge M37 and is a predecessor to the many four wheel drive trucks in use today.

1961 Buick Electra 225 Convertible

Buick is Bulgari's favorite marque, and the largest part of his collection. This convertible is an Electra 225, the name stemming from it's overall length of over 225", which earned it the street name "deuce and a quarter". That so much sheet metal can result in a car looking this sleek is a minor miracle.

1950 Chrysler Town & Country 2-Door Hardtop

In original (unrestored) condition. Has only a couple of thousand miles on the odometer. Mr. Bulgari is the original title holder. The first person to own it was a Chrysler dealer who lived in Florida who had it trucked to his summer home in the Ozarks each year.

1948 Chrysler Town & Country Convertible

Features original wooden trim. Beautifully restored inside and out.

1941 Nash 4-Door Sedan

MBCA-NEPA member Jack Lightcap examines the pristine engine compartment. Note the "Ambassador" label on the valve cover. The name was used up until the late 1960s by American Motors.

1940 "Shark-Nosed" Graham

The new 1938 Graham was introduced with the slogan "Spirit of Motion". The fenders, wheel openings and grille all appeared to be moving forward. The design was widely praised in the American press and by American designers. It also won the prestigious Concours D'Elegance in Paris, France. Wins were also recorded in the Prix d'Avant-Garde at Lyon, the Prix d'Elegance at Bordeaux, and the Grand Prix d'Honneur at Deauville, France. Its cut-back grille later gained the car the name "sharknose", which appears to have origins in the 1950s. The styling was a complete flop in sales. The most reliable estimates, from period publications, suggest the total production of all 3 years of these cars is between 6000 and 13,000 units. Graham was a pioneer of supercharged automobiles, although this particular example was not equipped with one.

1948 Buick Roadmaster Station Wagon

John Bleimaier and James Thorsen pretend they are dealer and happy new buyer for a classic post-war Woody wagon.

1932 Buick Series 90 Sedan

Vinny Milo and Jan van der Baan pose before a 1932 Buick Series 90 Sedan at the Bulgari collection.

Dining "Under the Stars"

How better to top off an evening of all-American cars than the Aladdin Restaurant with its starlit, midnight blue ceiling, camels, and tent-like walls.